Taylor Kitsch loved playing a villain in ‘American Assassin.’ HollywoodLife.com talked EXCLUSIVELY with the actor about those epic fight scenes with Dylan O’Brien, Michael Keaton, and so much more!
American Assassin will show you a side of Taylor Kitsch, 36, that you’ve never seen before. He has made a career out of playing heroes, but he’s switching things up with American Assassin. The actor is playing the villainous Ghost in the highly-anticipated movie, which is out in theaters now. He joins co-stars Dylan O’Brien, 26, Michael Keaton, 66, and Sanaa Lathan, 45, in a thriller that will leave you breathless and on the edge of your seat. The film follows a black ops recruit (O’Brien), who joins Cold War vet Stan Hurley (Keaton) and the CIA’s deputy director (Lathan) to take down a mysterious operative (Kitsch) who wants to start World War in the Middle East.
HollywoodLife.com got the chance to talk to Taylor via phone during the movie’s LA press day and at the NY red carpet screening, hosted by the Cinema Society and Saved Wines and iPic Theater. From getting into the mindset of his “tortured” character to the training, we got the scoop on everything. Plus, what was it like going toe-to-toe with an acting legend like Michael Keaton? Taylor answered all of our questions. Check out our Q&A below:
Your character wasn’t in the books, so how did you get into the mindset of playing such an angry, vengeful character without having something to base it on?
Taylor Kitsch: Well, I think that’s the catch-22. Everyone wants that creative control or creative outlet, so with this I had the freedom to just take him where I wanted to, which I loved. I live in Austin and my buddy has this huge ranch two hours outside of Austin… I went out there by myself and sat with this script and created the story and walked his ranch and shot guns and put in as many layers as to who Ghost was and where he came from.
You have a particularly gruesome scene with Michael in the film. What was it like filming something so shocking?
Taylor Kitsch: I mean that was literally, I don’t know if this says a lot about me, it was a big reason why I signed on — to go to bat with Keaton. You don’t get many opportunities in your career, if any, to have these scenes. I jumped at it. Lorenzo di Bonaventura was producing Only The Brave, this firefighter movie I was shooting at the time, and he kind of pitched me Ghost and was like, “We’re going rewrite this towards your scene if you sign on and I think you’re going to love it. It just says so much about this guy.” Then I reread the script, and I was kind of just like, “I’m going come and I’m going to swing and see what happens.”
What kind of training was involved, especially with that fight scene on the boat at the end?
Taylor Kitsch: First, I thought Dylan [O’Brien] did a great job. He’s got a high energy about him. He’s so game for anything, and that’s a very infectious thing to have. That scene was just rehearsing until you’re blue in the face, really. It was just repetition, repetition. With the weapons systems, I’ve been spoiled and trained by the best of the best, the Navy SEALS in Lone Survivor, so that wasn’t hard for me at all. It wasn’t much of a leap for me just because I’ve had that training. So that was a huge catalyst in aiding the process.
That scene is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Was that you and Dylan most of the time or stunt guys?
Taylor Kitsch: It’s funny because we would laugh a lot, believe it or not, between takes just how much we were getting beaten up. I think you see that in the shots. When they approached us with this, I was wondering how we were going to do this logistically. Literally, how are we going to do this? All you’re really seeing is how much of a beating you’re going to take shooting this, but you see it on film and it’s worth it at the end of the day. We actually had a lot of fun shooting that scene because it was just original. I’ve never seen anything like it, and Dylan’s just game for anything so it just made the process a lot easier.
For people who haven’t read the American Assassin books, what sets American Assassin apart from the Bourne and John Wick movies?
Taylor Kitsch: I think the origin story and this movie is its own entity. You know, the pace is relentless. When it ends, you’re just like kind of just blanking and saying to yourself, “There’s just so much that went down.” It just moves so well. I love that we don’t glorify, and we show you the hell part of being an assassin. The mental anguish on both sides and just how much it kind of takes over your life and mentality, so I love that it’s grounded in that. I think these books give you that as well.
Is there anything redeemable about Ghost?
Taylor Kitsch: F**k yeah! I think so. I’m very biased, playing him, but this is a guy who never came out to do this in the first place. He’s been tortured and the trauma’s carried through him and he makes this a personal vendetta, so I don’t know. I’d like to think he wasn’t always like this.
What can Mitch learn from Ghost?
Taylor Kitsch: Not to take the same path as him. I think that’s what the whole reality at the end was as well. I just think there’s these paths or these choices that Ghost represents definitely what Mitch could go down, and I like that he sees that.
HollywoodLifers, are you going to go see American Assassin? Let us know!